Humans of Riverside: JOAN’S STORY

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“I’ve been helping people ever since I can remember. In Grenada, I was 17 when I brought home a young woman and her two kids so they could have a place to live. But that’s me, always helping. It’s just natural.”

Joan King, photo taken in Joel Weeks Park, Riverside (Credit: MP Julie Dabrusin's office)

Joan King, photo taken in 2020 in Joel Weeks Park, Riverside (Photo Credit: MP Julie Dabrusin’s office)

JOAN KING

Resident, Community Builder, Rivertowne

Her Story:

I came to Canada from Grenada in 1989 when I was 19 years old. I worked in different coffee shops but on the side, I was always helping people. I remember once taking home a lady who was homeless so she could have a shower. My sisters were shocked.

I’ve been helping people ever since I can remember. In Grenada, I was 17 when I brought home a young woman and her two kids so they could have a place to live.

But that’s me, always helping. It’s just natural. I believe that you don’t need a lot of money to make a difference. If you have love in your heart and you’re surrounded by a good platform, you can do anything to help your community.

Before moving to Rivertowne, I lived at the YWCA building in the Pape and Queen area and was the food bank coordinator and I organized all the stuff for Black History month activities.

Eleven years ago, I moved to Rivertowne and quickly realized that this brand-new community needed support. A lot of the young people were just hanging about smoking and selling and doing bad stuff. I decided to create programs so we could have less of that bad stuff. I started the after-school program for 4- to 16-year-olds so the youth could have a safe place to just come and get support.

Before the homework sessions, I started a Friday breakfast program to bring people together. There was no opportunity for kids, youth, adults and seniors to just sit together under one roof and have a conversation. The program has been running for 10 years with the fundraising help of the Riverside BIA, Chef Scott (who sadly recently passed), and the Ralph Thornton Community Centre, and hands-on support from the Toronto Police Services week-to-week.

 

Joan King at the Riverside Antler Breakfast in 2019

Joan King at the Riverside Antler Breakfast in 2019, an annual fundraiser for the Rivertowne Breakfast Program (Photo credit: Riverside BIA)

We started the breakfast program with 80 participants, but since the pandemic, with more people at home, we’re feeding about 140 people every Friday. Parents who go to work appreciate it because they know that their kids will have a healthy breakfast at least once a week and people who are disabled look forward to it because they have trouble cooking for themselves.

Over the years, I’ve also started an annual community cleanup day with other community residents, and an appreciation dinner during the Christmas season. Altogether, I’m involved in a number of different projects in Rivertowne. I believe the programs have grown because my heart is in it.

I must say that no matter what we’re doing, the community officers from the police 55 Division are always there. They play a great role, from picking up garbage on cleanup day to taking the food from my kitchen and distributing it to residents on Friday mornings. 

I have my own challenges but I don’t let that stop me. I keep doing what I need to do because it’s my calling. No matter what, I never give up. I stand strong because of the love I have for my community.

I was so proud to recently have been recognized as part of the Children’s Breakfast Clubs of Canada in their 2021 Black History Month calendar, and want to thank them for their support during the pandemic.

Calendar from the Children's Breakfast Clubs of Canada featuring community members Black History Month 2021, Joan King is in the first column

Calendar from the Children’s Breakfast Clubs of Canada featuring community members Black History Month 2021, Joan King is in the first column (click to see large format)

Being involved in community makes me happy and I’ve learned a lot about being engaged and bringing people together. It feels good to make a difference. Even if I change the circumstances or the life of just one person, that’s a win for me.

About the Humans of Riverside: Giving Voice and Making Space for BIPOC” Storytelling Series:

The Riverside BIA – located along Toronto’s Queen Street East from the iconic bridge over the Don River to just past De Grassi St – is proud to celebrate diversity and inclusiveness with this story-telling series.

The ‘Humans of Riverside’ story telling project launched in summer 2020 as part of the iheART Main Street Art Challenge and is an on-going collaboration with local writer and editor Grace Cameron to give space and voice to stories from local BIPOC and other community members in Riverside.

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